Virsu V, Vuorinen R, 1975, "Dark adaptation and short-wavelength backgrounds decrease perceived size" Perception 4(1) 19 – 34
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Dark adaptation and short-wavelength backgrounds decrease perceived size
Veijo Virsu, Risto Vuorinen
Received 15 January 1975
Abstract. The effects of background luminance, contrast, and background wavelength on the perceived size of small line figures were studied at mesopic levels of light adaptation. Perceived size diminished at low levels of background luminance. The effect disappeared at high levels of luminance. Perceived size of luminous circles increased as a logarithmic function of background luminance when the background intensity did not exceed 25 td. The strength of the size effect decreased as a function of circle diameter from 0.125 to 2 deg of visual angle. Perceived size of small luminous circles, subtending less than 0.5 deg, also increased as a function of contrast at low values of contrast but at very high values of contrast there was a decrease in perceived size. Background luminance had the same effect on the perceived size of circles as on the perceived size of spatial cycles in gratings.
Control experiments led to the conclusion that dark adaptation is the primary source of the size effects. The main evidence for this conclusion was obtained from a demonstration that the same background luminance produced either an increase or a decrease in perceived size, depending on the adaptational state of the eye. It was also found that a shift from cone vision to rod vision contributes to the effects, for a stimulus looked smaller on a short-wavelength background than on a long-wavelength background. The size effects can be predicted from the changes of receptive-field properties of single neurones under corresponding conditions of stimulation, if it is assumed that the perception of size is mediated by size-specific channels formed of single neurones. Stimulation that leads to an activation of small receptive fields appears to indicate to the brain the presence of small retinal images. If small receptive fields are experimentally made responsive to larger retinal images, an underestimation of size results.
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